The news was received with a combination of fear and humour from Kenya’s influential Twitter community, spanning discussions that held steady for hours.
To not be left behind were corporates who took advantage of the #lions hashtag to grow their online presence.
Such includes RMA Motors. “If you spot a lion, contact KWS, if you spot a Jaguar, it probably got loose from the RMA showroom. Contact us,” read the tweet by the company.
The Kenya Tourism Board was not to be left behind riding on the hashtag to encourage Kenyans to tour the country more, they wrote: “When lions tembea Kenya more than humans.”
Then there was KCB Bank whose official logo in fact includes a lion: “When your customers don’t come to you, you go to them #tembeaKenya.”
The hashtag on lions was however not the first instance for corporates in the country to take advantage of.
Bonfire Adventures rode on the #poleAvril hashtag, after the Kenyan musician’s relationship allegedly ended, urging her to take a break and enjoy their supposed discounted prices for a Mombasa holiday.
Last year, the #BroOcholla hashtag was one of the most popular on Twitter after a member of a prayer group posted a sexual message on the group by mistake. Many corporates took advantage of it to promote their products.
They included Kenya Airways who told ‘Bro Ochola’ that he deserved a holiday urging him to check out their various holiday offers. Others included Durex Kenya, Safaricom and Orange Telkom among others.
The hashtag #PoleKwaMwirigi is the one that most corporates took advantage of. The hashtag started after Capital FM Lifestyle writer and blogger Sharon Mundia took to Twitter announcing her engagement. Mwirigi, a fellow blogger and a supposed admirer of Mundia, was consoled by many corporates that included Airtel, Zuku, KFC and KCB bank among others.
“@mwirigi, you may have missed the chic but we’ve got more breasts and thighs. Sharing is caring!” KFC wrote on Twitter.
But how effective are these hashtags and do corporates benefit after riding on them?
The short answer is yes and no.
According to Dannish Odongo, an Account Manager at Capital Digital, yes, corporates do stand to benefit if they remain relevant and use the hashtag wisely. He however cautions that corporates have time and again embarrassed their brands while doing so.
“If you ride on the right trending hashtag, it can actually give you the kind of impressions you are looking for. For instance, the #PoleMwirigi hashtag got millions of impressions. Those that used it wisely sure did create the online presence that they were looking for.”
Depending on the amount of interest and relevance the trend has on Kenyans, the more the impact a corporate can draw from taking part of the hashtag.
“Sometimes, the amount of impact a brand can get from taking part in a trending hashtag can equal to several months of online marketing without the use of trending hashtags,” he says.
Odongo however cautions companies to not ride on any and every popular trend. He explains that some can be empty trends that only discredit a brand in the eyes of the online community.
What then should brands consider before riding on a trend?
“Brands should ask themselves, can I remain witty while still passing on my message? Does this particular trend add value to my brand?”
Additionally, he asks brands to look up the impact and influence of the trend online before taking part. If for instance a trend has only drawn 350,000 impressions, a brand may want to stay away from it. Hence he recommends tools such as Tweetreach and Hootsuite among others to search which hashtags are drawing much more impressions and relate to their course best.
Duncan Ndirangu from Capital Digital echoes his sentiments urging companies to watch out on what hashtags they ride on and which ones to not.
“Do not use a hashtag, whether it’s trending or not, for the sake of hashtagging. Nothing puts off readers more than irrelevant hashtags do,” Ndirangu says.
If a brand however chooses to not ride on trending hashtags and instead generate conversation from scratch, Ndirangu asks corporate to work with ‘influencers’ wisely if it chooses to employ their services.
“Some people are deemed to be influencers simply because they have many followers but do not in fact have as much influence. There however are those who have the influence and are considered to have an authoritative voice in particular fields. Put those into consideration before choosing to work with a perceived influencer,” he says.
He further urges companies to work with influencers who are in fields connected to the company. For instance, if a company sells electrical products, it has no business contracting an influential fashion blogger as the latter is not an authority in the field.